By Chelsea Couture, Former International Education Intern
1. Comida. “I hate food”, said noone ever. Spain is not only beautiful, but is also an amazing place for your palate. I’m sure you’ve all heard by now that Spain is famous for its tapas. Tapas are small portions meant for a snack or for sharing. At one point or another we’ve all felt that burning curiosity of what the food on our neighbors plate tasted like, with tapas you no longer have to wonder. Want a gourmet dish to yourself? Try Paella. Paella is a dish made with rice or noodles, infused with saffron and your choice of mariscos (seafood), pollo y chorizo, or vegetables. Is dinner just your socially acceptable way of making it to dessert? Barcelona is never short on chocolate con churros, a great dish for those with a sweet tooth. This dessert is a spin on fried dough, contrary to the fried dough you may be familiar with, it is served with a plate of melted chocolate for dipping. Is your mouth watering yet? Whatever you’re looking for Barcelona surely has something for you.
2. Architectural Brilliance. Catalunya’s own Antoni Gaudi brings modernista architecture to a whole new level. His unique, ground breaking architecture is known throughout Spain, Europe, and the World. Many of Barcelona’s must see sights are some of Gaudi’s masterpieces. The most popular of which being, La Sagrada Familia. This monumental icon puts all other cathedrals to shame. Originally designed by Gaudi, La Sagrada Familia is still being built today. This constant renovation generates a Cathedral with varying, yet complementary designs. The original exterior design by Gaudi brings childrens dreams to life as it resembles a melting sandcastle. Other iconic monuments include la Pedrera, a house original designed by Gaudi. The face of this building takes on the form of the ocean as it appears to wave over the city of Barcelona. This textural exterior creates a house, that I can assure you, is unlike any you have seen before. No that’s not all, Barcelona is also home to Gaudi’s Parc Güell. To put it simply, if Sagrada Familia was the heart of Barcelona then Parc Güell would be the lungs. Inspired by organic shapes in nature, the park was designed to bring peace and calm to its visitors. Gaudi’s vibrant and awe inspiring architecture brings the Barcelona streets to life everywhere you turn.
3. Cultural Overflow. Not only do the citizens of Barcelona speak spanish, but their native language is Catalan. The Spanish and Catalan cultures blend together in the most interesting way, visible in every barrio of Barcelona. The Catalan culture is very distinct from any other spanish culture, with a unique language, history, and traditions. Accompanied by Spanish and Catalan heritage, Barcelona is also a melting pot. You can find people from all over the world living, studying, or visiting Barcelona. It is a cultural hub where all languages have a voice. This not only allows for a wide variety of cuisine options, ranging from Asian to Brazilian, but also creates an extremely diverse atmosphere. The mix of Spanish and Catalan, along with a taste of many other cultures, gives Barcelona its international feel and sets it apart from all other European cities.
4. Los Paisajes (landscapes) Perfecto. Barcelona is nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and a cluster of small mountains. It’s hard to say which is more breathtaking. Barcelona is well known for its beaches as they are gorgeous, lively, and youthful. Although Barcelona’s beaches are renowned, not everyone knows about the natural beauties that await just outside the city limits. The most popular of the mountains that surround the city is Montserrat. The angelic hymns that float over Barcelona from the Monastery atop this mountain only further its magical atmosphere. The choir of this Monastery is well known throughout Barcelona. There are also many parks and smaller hills, like Montjuic (the site of the 1992 Olympic games), where you can bask in breathtaking views of Barcelona. When it comes to awe inspiring landscapes Barcelona is chock-full of them.
5. Diverse Barrios (neighborhoods). From the thriving youth culture of Gràcia to the international neighborhood of Raval, Barcelona’s neighborhoods all have a distinct flare. El Barrio Gótico is the popular old neighborhood where you can still see remnants from when the Romans inhabited this area of Spain. Go a little further towards the coast and you’ll find Barceloneta, the beach town of the city. During nice weather this area comes alive with people roller skating, beach bums soaking up the sun, and venders of all different kinds. Thought you knew sandcastles? The sand art in this area will redefine your childhood beach pastime. For a more authentic experience travel North to the neighborhood of Sant Andreu, or west to the barrio of Sants. The Eixample, a major neighborhood in Barcelona is known for its grid set up. This large neighborhood is full of restaurants, businesses, museums, and incredible architecture you can’t find anywhere else. If you’re looking for modern, old, authentic, quant, lively, or artsy there is a neighborhood in Barcelona for you. Barcelona truly has a little bit of everything.
6. Well Connected. Upon arriving back to the US after my visit to Barcelona, I was reacquainted with my home transportation system, to be more specific the Boston T. During my first ride on the T in months, with all of its stopping and going, worrisome noises, and its general unpredictable nature, all I could think about was how much I missed the Barcelona metro. For all of those familiar with the Boston MBTA, you understand how unreliable it can be. Unlike the T, the metro is extremely reliable, clean, safe, and it makes getting around the large city of Barcelona a sitch. Boston’s T (which is the oldest in the US, I’ll give it that) made Barcelona’s metro look like amtrak. Not only is it easy to get around the city, but Barcelona’s well connected location makes it easy to get to other parts of Spain, or better yet other countries in Europe. Spain is only a short trip away from the south of France. Barcelona’s excellent transportation systems, and it’s location make it ideal for getting around.
7. Trabaja para Vivir. Along with running on their own time, Spain is known for its relaxing atmosphere. One day while studying in Spain, my Spanish professor asked the class, “¿En España, trabajamos para vivir o vivimos para trabajar?” (In Spain, do we work to live or live to work?) and the answer was simple. The citizens of Barcelona work in order to provide their means to live. To Spaniards, working is simply the means to living a comfortable life. This creates a relaxing pass where smaller shops often close for lunch, and where people value their free time. Life in Barcelona exists outside a world of fast pace hustle and bustle. This is why Barcelona is such a great place to take a step back, breathe, and just live.